It’s often easier to pay with a debit card than fumble through a wad of cash. Despite this convenience, it’s important to be cautious when using your debit card because it links directly to your bank account. If a thief steals your card number, he can potentially drain your balance without having your actual card. Knowing how crooks get debit card numbers can help you stay one step ahead of them. If you use your debit card wisely, you can improve your chances of keeping your information safe.
Use only ATM machines and payment terminals that appear unaltered and intact. Criminals sometimes install devices on existing card readers to capture information. For example, if the card reader at a gas pump looks suspicious, pay inside or go somewhere else.
Keep your card out of view of others. A thief requires only a split second to snap a picture of your card. When you’re in the checkout line, pull your card out only when you’re ready to pay, and cover it with your hand when you swipe it. Afterward, put it away immediately.
Pay with cash at establishments where an employee leaves your presence to process your payment. If someone is alone with your debit card, your number could be in jeopardy. For instance, a restaurant server might take your card to a payment terminal away from the dining area, where he could copy your information.
Give your card number by phone only when you initiate the call and you know whom you’re calling. Never provide information to someone who calls you. Thieves sometimes pose as trusted companies and contact debit card users to get information. For example, a scam artist claiming to be from your bank might call requesting your debit card number. Don’t fall for it.
Avoid using your debit card online. Even trusted websites can be vulnerable to hacking. The Federal Trade Commission recommends using a credit card instead of a debit card online because federal law protects credit card users more than debit card holders against fraud.
Cut an old debit card into tiny pieces before throwing it away. The smaller it is, the more undetectable your information will be. Be sure to clip through the magnetic strip and computer chip, if your card has one, to eliminate any encoded data.
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images